Music

I think music has gradually become more and more important to me over the course of my life. The longest-running and most important music for me is the bells. I was taught English change-ringing by my mother when I was a young boy, in Fawley, Hampshire. I rang at Iffley village in Oxfordshire when I lived there; more recently I was vice-captain of the band in St Andrews, Scotland, and did a lot of teaching there as well. I have been elected as the 2022 Northern District Ringing Master in the Irish Association of Change Ringers, and I am now ringing regularly with the band at Lurgan.

Myself (in the stripy shirt) on the treble, and my mother (in the blue top and sparkly scarf) on the 5th, ringing with the IACR at Holy Trinity, Drumbo, in County Down.

When I was at university, I discovered archaeology, and traditional music, and the harp. These things have guided me ever since. Archaeology of music leads on to organology and ethnomusicology; archaeology and reconstructionism saw me working with early-medieval lyres and other strange ancient things.

Music archaeology also led to my long involvement with trying to reconstruct medieval Gaelic harp music. In 2006-7 I commissioned a detailed “archaeological” reproduction of the 14th century Scottish Queen Mary clarsach preserved in the National Museum of Scotland, which I used to explore possible re-imaginings of medieval West Highland music, including an exploration of the pibroch or ceòl mór repertory of the bagpipes.

With Gaelic singer Gillebrìde MacMillan, performing for the chiefs of Clan Donald at Armadale, Isle of Skye.

Studying music such as pibroch, and Ossianic ballads, led me to work more with old oral tradition music. I was inspired by the Scandinavian bowed-lyre or Jouhikko traditions. I also got a fiddle and learned the rudiments of playing. I was involved with the traditional music scene at the Wighton Centre in Dundee.

I also have dabbled in experimental electronic music composition. I have long been curious about the pure impersonal digital world, and how it contrasts with the messy reality of living in the physical and biological mess of life on Earth.